Feb 09 2012
Peoria Journal Star (Illinois) - by Tim Landis
The FutureGen Alliance has sold the original site of a clean-coal project near Mattoon for $700,000 after paying $3.5 million for the property in 2008.
Despite taking $2.8 million less than the Alliance paid, Alliance CEO Ken Humphreys said the sale to a Coles County development group will allow the consortium of energy companies to concentrate on a new site in Morgan County.
No tax dollars were used for the original land purchase, said Humphreys.
“This is good for the project. It’s good for Morgan County. It’s good for Coles County,” said Humphreys. “It’s all private dollars. There was no federal money.”
FutureGen 2.0 wants to store carbon-dioxide emissions at a site in northeast Morgan County as part of an experiment in creating a near-zero-emission coal-fired power plant. The federal government has pledged $1 billion toward the estimated $1.65 billion construction cost.
Back in local hands
The 440 acres near Mattoon was sold to Coles Together, a development group that backed the original FutureGen project. The U.S. Department of Energy dropped its support for the Mattoon site in 2010 because of cost overruns.
Coles Together and the FutureGen Alliance raised $6.5 million to buy the land, with the alliance contributing $3.5 million, according to Humphreys. The Coles County group now owns the entire site.
Alliance president Angela Griffin said in a statement the group will begin marketing the land for other purposes.
“The recent real-estate transaction effectively provides for local ownership and management of the entire 440 acres,” said Griffin.
Humphreys said the Alliance will use the $700,000 to buy a piece of a now-shutdown Ameren power plant at Meredosia. The plant, on the Illinois River about 60 miles west of Springfield, is to supply carbon to the Morgan County site, where testing continues to determine whether it would be suitable for carbon storage.
‘Took a bath’
Morgan County farmer Andy Davenport, who has helped organize landowner opposition to FutureGen 2.0, said the group is awaiting word on the environmental studies and another round of public meetings.
“There’s still a lot of people who are opposed to it,” said Davenport, whose farm is immediately east of the proposed storage site.
Davenport also said the $700,000 Coles County sale price is an example of the unpredictable costs that could result if FutureGen 2.0 is allowed to continue.
“It sounds to me like they took a bath on it,” he said.